Szechwan Peppercorns

Appears in

Szechwan peppercorns are called “flower pepper” in Chinese, an allusion to the brown, flower-like open pod. They grow on a bush and often come complete with the tiny, slightly bitter black seeds in addition to an array of twigs, thorns, and tiny leaves. Look for bags that feature pods, not seeds. Szechwan peppercorns are indigenous to China and are a member of the botanical family called fagara. This makes them totally unrelated to our black and white peppercorns, which the Chinese naturally call “barbarian pepper.”

The only imperative for a Szechwan peppercorn to taste lively is that it smell pungent. You should be able to smell them clear through the bag—a clean and almost camphor-like aroma that led Chinese in former generations to fill sachets with the spice. Poke through to eliminate any thorns, then store the pepper in an airtight jar.